Local moms, experts speak about RSV

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(ABC 6 News) – This coming fall and winter there may be another respiratory illness to need to look out for. RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a respiratory illness that gives most people cold and flu-like symptoms.

For infants and the elderly, this disease goes beyond a cough and the sniffles. Brittany Riedemann’s baby had RSV, pneumonia and a collapsed lung. The virus has lasting effects in infants.

"I think I was more naïve in thinking it was just a virus that people get," Riedemann said.

Jasmine Thompson’s 10-month old baby has had RSV twice within 30 days.

"Exhausting. My youngest…He won’t eat and he won’t sleep. Or he wants to sleep all the time but doesn’t want to eat," Thompson said.

Both mothers say their children may have gotten it at the hospital or doctor’s office.

"It didn’t hit me until the doctor in the ER was like bent down and rubbing my shoulder saying ‘your baby’s extremely sick,’" Riedemann said.

RSV can be hard to diagnose because its symptoms match the common cold or mild cases of other viruses like the flu and COVID-19. If not caught, however, it could have long-lasting effects.

"RSV also causes something in young infants called bronchiolitis," said Dr. Angela Mattke, a pediatrician at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center.

Because a baby’s airways are so small, this causes a severe cough.

"The people that are most at risk for an RSV infection that causes bronchiolitis are premature infants or infants that are born with respiratory conditions or cardiac conditions," Mattke said.

Medical experts aren’t sure why RSV is more widespread this year than in previous years, and they don’t know what to expect this fall and winter.

"It’s unknown at this point if RSV levels are going to continue to be sustained at similar levels or if we’ll see fluctuations as the winter months occur," she said.

Riedemann’s baby is recovering, however.

"It was good to know that she was healthy again," she said.

The pair are excited to get back to life as a normal family.

There is not currently an RSV vaccine, but scientists are working on developing one. Experts say the coronavirus vaccine’s new mRNA technology could help.